Matt Woodard

Founder at scalr

1. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

Without a doubt, it was when I decided to quit my job, aged 21, and go backpacking around Australia. Having lived in the same little village in Buckinghamshire (in the UK) all my life, I was pretty green and inexperienced, in all aspects of life. The experiences helped me to grow up and that led to the journey I have had to get back to Australia – via Scotland, England (again) and New Zealand. I often reflect on how different my life could’ve been and am grateful that I never felt satisfied with my lot at a young age. I know I’m where I should be in the world, Melbourne.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

Suddenly, aged 24, I seemed to be taken more seriously in professional conversations. My opinion and views mattered that bit more and I felt more confident in my abilities. There wasn’t a particular moment but a series of contributing situations that led to my growing confidence. Is that old or young?!

3. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

I feel like this is the kind of question where people will roll off three impactful business or self-help books like The Alchemist, but honestly, the books that bring me the most joy are all fiction. In no particular order, I would absolutely recommend these brilliant books: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Dissolution by CJ Sansom and River God by Wilbur Smith. Historical fiction at its best!

4. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them in high esteem.

Two people spring to mind so an honourable mention to Mr Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. An unbelievably talented musician, first and foremost, who has provided the soundtrack of my life with many unforgettable moments. From everything you see and hear too, an unbelievable human too, he’d be high on the fantasy dinner party list.

The one I will run with, though, is Eric Cantona. He, of Manchester United and ‘seagulls following trawlers’ fame.

Eric was my first real idol growing up, supporting United. The man had such swagger, poise and a demeanour which stood him apart from everyone else. A real maverick footballer who was beautiful to watch: collar up, chest puffed out. He retired at the scandalously early age of 30 because he lost his passion and went on to do a load of artistic endeavours. He continues to be a deity in my 42-year-old eyes.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

I like to think I’m a very straightforward person. I’m very much a people person so appreciate openness and honesty in all of my interactions, whether it’s good or bad. I’ve never been able to play ‘the game’ and think that’s why I made a conscious choice to move my career away from corporate life toward the start-up and scale-up space. To me, it feels like you’re able to enjoy more authentic, genuine interactions and relationships.

6. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and well-being?

Try not to take life, or yourself, too seriously. We’re only here for a short time so we might as well enjoy the journey. I seek to see the positives in every situation and one adage I live by is that everything will always work out in the end. If it still hasn’t, in whatever challenging moment you’re in, then it means it’s not the end.

The classic example is my current situation. Being made redundant was shit but the outcome is that I’m in a position to finally do my own thing. I have the opportunity to now forge my own path in the direction I want to take, something I wouldn’t have necessarily been brave enough to do before.

What’s for you, won’t go by you.

7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

What is your secret to staying so handsome and youthful? ;)

8) When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

Oh man, every time I go to a networking event and I don’t know anyone – I hate it! I’m not a fan of small talk and find it harder as I get older, I think. The easiest solution was to set up my own Meetup. It’s made me laser-focused on making sure other people don’t feel awkward but included and part of the sessions from the off. I hope that remains the case 7 years later.

9) What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

Appropriate to his name, my son Rex is obsessed with dinosaurs. I took him to go see the balloon dinos at the big shopping centre nearby. He loved it!

10) What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

This tattoo. My Dad passed away unexpectedly in November 2021 and kestrels were his favourite bird. Of all of the ink I have this is by far my most meaningful.

11) Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?

Moriarty from Sherlock is just brilliant. Apart from the underlying evil, he’s smart, funny and conniving. He’s not your typical baddy and I sometimes found myself siding with him!

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Well, definitely Dave Grohl for one! Then probably David Attenborough, because he is one of the greatest humans and it would be fascinating to hear some of his stories, what a life the man has lived. Finally, Sandi Toksvig would be both hilarious and interesting. If she’s not available, Bob Mortimer for the same reasons.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

This was actually fairly recent and was my good friend, Jonathan Maltby, who reminded me that my imposter syndrome (in starting a new business) was both normal and understandable. His advice was that I need to be comfortable with the fact that, while my imposter syndrome makes me question what I know, 95% of my audience is certain to know less.

It was a positive and timely reminder that 16 years of TA experience counts for a lot and that, really, I’ve got this!

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Probably that I’m good at bringing people together. That’s been a key superpower in the last few roles I’ve had where creating a shared goal and vision (to build a TA function on) has been critical.

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

There’s definitely a fine line between confidence and arrogance and I’ve worked with quite a few people who trod that line! That kind of personality brings confidence and self-belief and that’s no bad thing, if they could back it up with delivery. As long as you can provide clear expectations and provide the praise and validation these people often need then no problem!

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

To my earlier point, I tend to be the facilitator. I enjoy and naturally gravitate towards a role where I can be involved in the detail and have the opportunity to positively contribute. Like most of us, we’ve all been in dysfunctional teams so I enjoy creating cohesive environments where everyone has a voice.

17. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Having worked for some great companies, with some of the best minds in the industry, I often found myself to be the least experienced or knowledgeable in the room. In those situations, I tried to become more of a sponge and learn as much as I could.

18. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

The seemingly endless cycle of TA going from being the golden children to, all of a sudden, being surplus to requirements. Despite the amount of value-adding work TA do to demonstrate capability, this still persists.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What would you rather fight: a horse-sized duck or 20 duck-sized horses?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Marcel Van Der Meer – an awesome dude.

Thank you to Matt for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Matt on LinkedIn

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